Imagine walking into a food market on the lookout for something new. You make a discovery, you love it, and go back the following week to refind it. You relocate the stall but it looks completely different. You’re unsure of the wares and leave confused. Determined, you go back the following week but this time the stall is under another new guise.

This is exactly the same confusion experienced in our own online/offline marketplace when brands change identities without communicating it properly. Sometimes a revamp is necessary but when it comes to branding consistency is key.

 

What are brand guidelines?

Not a trick question but often a misinterpreted one. Brand guidelines are not just the type of document a designer or copywriter may follow. That is, typography, colour palette, lexicon and tone of voice. Brand guidelines go far, far beyond this criteria, detailing how your business communicates to its customer base. They should also include:

● Your ethos: what are your morals?
● Your principles: what do you stand for?
● Your messaging: what do you want to say?

 

Consistency is where your strength lies

Brand guidelines should sit at the heart of each and every brand. Where a brand is successful, these guidelines will be fiercely adhered to in order to ensure consistency amongst employees and outside sources. Today’s marketplace is saturated, there’s simply millions of brands out there vying for attention. A simple stray off target could be disastrous – you’ve made yourself unrecognisable, your tone is skewed and your credibility shattered. Inconsistency also costs money; think about the time and money that goes into just ensuring a colour palette is followed across different materials and then imagine changing that multiple times.

Making sure that everyone – from designers and copywriters through to advertisers and account managers – are all reading off the same page is incredibly important.

 

Always stay flexible

Growth is at the centre of every business strategy. Growth and brand development will mean that, of course, your brand guidelines will at some point (encouragingly) have to change so you can start becoming louder and strengthen your brand’s personality. Your intended audience may change, you may start branching out into different channels and you may even acquire other business units. Each new move will require a review of your brand guidelines so your new ventures marry up. Working across different channels can be tough on any brand – make sure you don’t let it become dislocated as you work on your mobile outputs, web strategy and offline material.

 

When should you create brand guidelines?

If you’re just starting up or are a small business owner then chances are that you might not need a massive set of branding documents – especially if your staff count is low and your resourcing kept in-house. You’ll need something, but it might be less essential. But as your business grows you attain more staff, you start using third party resources and you start branching out into other channels, those guidelines will have to be put in place.

We all have a code. As people, we naturally look for connectors, logic and sense in the things we engage with. We also look for guidance – otherwise we often become lost. It’s exactly the same with branding. Guidelines provide structure and as a brand evolves, its principles should remain. This will save you time, money and resources in the long run.